The UNESCO NGO Global Forum hosted by the Mohammed bin Salman Foundation (MiSK) opened this morning in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with the UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova urging the world to empower youth to build the foundations for inclusive knowledge societies.

Attended by more than 400 NGOs and over 2,100 delegates from more than 70 countries, this is the first time the event has been held in the Arab region.  

During his opening address, His Excellency Dr Ali Al-Ghafis, Saudi Arabian Minister of Labour and Social Development, said:  “We must liberate the ability of youth around the world to create opportunities for the future.  Here in the Kingdom, the MiSK Foundation is creating initiatives which empower youth to help realise the ambition of the National Transformation Plan and Vision 2030.”

The forum is focused on developing practical ideas to empower the youth of the world to make a positive social impact.  In her opening address Irina Bokova said:  “This first NGO forum to be held in the Arab region reflects the depth of partnership between Saudi Arabia and UNESCO, building on shared aspirations and common goals to take forward the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

“This must start with the empowerment of young women and men.  We must build on new partnerships with civil society and NGOs to listen to all voices and to nurture every source of innovation and dynamism.  These are the foundations for the inclusive knowledge societies we need for the century ahead.”

She continued:  “The world has never been so young, and it is getting younger every day.  Together we must do everything to support youth to advance new forms of dialogue and cooperation to tackle the challenges facing all societies.  Today more than ever we need the ideas, imagination, creativity and resilience of young people to build a better future for all.  This is the importance of this ground breaking forum.”

Eric Falt, Assistant Director-General for External Relations and Public Information, UNESCO, said:  “Youth is a strength and they have a hunger for social impact and change.  Youth matter because they are the guardians of the future and they have the energy and creativity to make a change in the world.”

The two day event will be capped by presenting the inaugural MiSK Global Award for NGO Innovation in Youth Empowerment.  The competition received more than 70 entries from around the world and the winning initiative will receive a $30,000 prize fund to be used as seed capital to put the winning project into practice.

The Forum is hosted by the MiSK Foundation which was founded by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman with a mission to empower, nurture and inspire Saudi Arabia’s youth to become active participants in the global economy. 

It is a non-profit organization which works to develop a knowledge-based economy by promoting practical schemes to support young people in developing the right entrepreneurial and cognitive skills.

Through keynote speakers, panel discussions and breakout sessions, the forum will focus on the following topics:

  • Youth engagement and its potential for social change
  • Optimizing the impact of the digital native – and managing the risk
  • Educating for a sustainable future
  • What skills for young people today?


About MiSK

The Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Philanthropic Foundation (MiSK) is a non-profit foundation devoted to the cultivation of knowledge and leadership in Saudi Arabia by focusing on the country’s youth, and providing them with opportunities that help to foster their talent, creativity and innovation.  MiSK pursues these goals by both establishing its own programs, and through partnerships with local and global organizations that help to incubate the development of intellectual capital and ultimately unlock Saudi Arabia’s vast potential.

MiSK’s four areas of focus are:

  • Education, with the foundation working to develop the Kingdom’s educational environment, as well as exploring educational trends in relation to the learning experience.
  • Media, with the foundation focusing on developing local media talent and ensuring industry consistency with global best practice.
  • Culture, with the foundation launching projects focusing on the cultural development of the youth community.
  • Technology, with the foundation focusing on developing innovative technology that helps to redefine its development and impact in the Kingdom.

As the pace of change in the KSA accelerates to the meet the goals Vision 2030, MiSK plays a key role in helping to shape the fabric of Saudi Arabian society with the nation’s youth as a catalyst of change.


About the 7th International Forum of NGOs

The 7th International Forum of NGOs is organized by the NGO-UNESCO Liaison Committee and the UNESCO Secretariat, in partnership with MiSK, as part of UNESCO’s cooperation and engagement with non-governmental organizations.  The Forum brings together NGOs in official partnership with UNESCO, youth representatives and experts, and is intended as a platform to co-create initiatives and select ideas to enable the full engagement of young people within their societies and allow them to become the change-makers of tomorrow.

Since 2013, International forums of NGOs were organized, with the support of NGOs, in Paris, (France), Yamoussoukro (Côte d’Ivoire), Sozopol (Bulgaria), Beijing (China), Querétaro (Mexico), around topics relevant to UNESCO’s mandate – education, access to water, safeguarding of cultural heritage, rapprochement of cultures, peace - and presented opportunities for raising awareness and mobilizing support around UNESCO’s priority issues.


About the NGO-UNESCO Liaison Committee

The UNESCO-NGO Liaison Committee is composed of 10 NGOs, official partners of UNESCO, representative of geographical diversity, elected by the NGOs in official partnership with UNESCO at the International Conference of NGOs every 2 years.

The Committee is the standing body that collectively represents NGOs at UNESCO. Its roles are to represent the interests of all the NGOs in partnership with UNESCO and to coordinate collective activities involving NGOs. It organizes twice a year, in cooperation with UNESCO, forums on topics in connection with the UNESCO programs and supports initiatives of NGOs wishing to celebrate International Days (Human Rights, Peace, Poverty).


Source: Hill+Knowlton Strategies